Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 29, 2009

'SLAMMIN' AND RAMMIN'.... The tension between party officials and party activists has become increasingly apparent this morning. Republicans focused on Sonia Sotomayor's nomination just don't seem to be on the same page.

I initially thought it would be an outsourcing situation, in which the GOP would rely on activists to say what officials couldn't. But as of this morning, party officials seem to think the activists are just embarrassing the whole gang.

RNC chair Michael Steele, guest-hosting on Bill Bennett's radio show early this morning, repeatedly distanced himself from Republicans and conservatives who have been harshly attacking Sonia Sotomayor, saying the assault risked damaging the party. [...]

In what seemed like an effort to distance the party from claims that Sotomayor is "racist" and an "Affirmative Action" pick, Steele repeatedly said that Republicans should be hailing the historic nature of Obama's pick.

"I'm excited that a Hispanic woman is in this position," Steele said. He added that instead of "slammin' and rammin'" on Sotomayor, Republicans should "acknowledge" the "historic aspect" of the pick and make a "cogent, articulate argument" against her for purely substantive reasons.

Steele warned that because of the attacks, "we get painted as a party that's against the first Hispanic woman" picked for the Supreme Court.

This came shortly after Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, denounced attacks from Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich as "terrible" and "wrong."

These are the responses of party leaders who see a debate going in a very unhelpful direction. Steele's awkward rhetoric notwithstanding, the fact that he felt compelled to issue this warning to his own party suggests the RNC chairman is getting awfully nervous.

As well as he should be, given the rhetoric coming from Gingrich, Limbaugh, Rove, Barnes, Tancredo, et al.

There's probably a realization -- if there's not, there should be -- that most Americans are unlikely to make a distinction between Republican activists and Republican elected officials. When the activists smear the first Latina nominee for the Supreme Court, it's the latter that will feel the electoral repercussions. The takeaway is "Republicans attack Sotomayor, using racist tactics." That's obviously a repugnant development for people of decency, but in a political context, it's a disaster for the party.

No wonder Steele and Cornyn are scrambling.

Post Script: Yes, it's possible that Steele and Cornyn are cheering on the unhinged activists behind the scenes, knowing that Newt and Rush can get away with screeds that those in positions of responsibility cannot. But I doubt it. GOP officials, I suspect, know this is hurting their party. There's no upside to the attacks.

Steve Benen 12:35 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

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Comments

Steele will contort himself into a pretzel trying to say that he doesn't want anyone to think he was talking about Party Leader Limbaugh in 3 . . . 2 . . .


Posted by: SteveT on May 29, 2009 at 12:39 PM | PERMALINK

There's probably a realization -- if there's not, there should be -- that most Americans are unlikely to make a distinction between Republican activists and Republican elected officials.

Especially since those making the most scurrilous attacks, Gingrich and Tancredo, used to be, and still desire to be, elected officials.

Posted by: Shine on May 29, 2009 at 12:40 PM | PERMALINK

Gingrich, Limbaugh, Rove, Barnes, Tancredo, et al.

Limbaugh will say what he wants, but I find it hard to imagine that the other four are not working in sync with the party leaders. Well, except for maybe Steele, who never seems to be in on the game plan.

Posted by: Danp on May 29, 2009 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

This came shortly after Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, denounced attacks from Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich as "terrible" and "wrong."

I certainly hope Mr Limbaugh won't just sit back and let that pass. Go Rush go!!!

Posted by: GOP Suicide Squad on May 29, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

It seems to be working. Even the White House is admitting what she said in 2001 was wrong:

“She misspoke,” said Lanny Davis, a White House lawyer and spokesman for President Bill Clinton. “Every day that goes by that they don’t say she misspoke and she used the wrong words

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0509/23053.html

Posted by: Jake on May 29, 2009 at 12:46 PM | PERMALINK

Yes, it's possible that Steele and Cornyn are cheering on the unhinged activists behind the scenes, knowing that Newt and Rush can get away with screeds that those in positions of responsibility cannot.


I doubt it. Especially now that Boss Limbaugh is the head of the GOP. Chris Bowers at OpenLeft has some info that Obama's approval rating has actually gone up in the past week. I think those actually in office(unlike Newt and Tancredo) and those looking to the future(Steele) have come to realize the crap flinging is hurting them big time.

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on May 29, 2009 at 12:49 PM | PERMALINK

Jake:
Lanny Davis speaks for the White House? 15 years ago, maybe. Not now. He's Faux Noise's favorite Democrat(after HoJo).

Posted by: Joe Klein's conscience on May 29, 2009 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

Jake, I'm guessing you think Dick Morris is a Dem, too.

Posted by: Danp on May 29, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

Disavow Rove, Limbaugh, Gingrich, Tancredo, Barnes,...? It's rather late in the day for that. I'll give credit to Steele and Cornyn for noticing that Obama has nailed their balls to the wall. But it shouldn't have been that hard to tell.

Posted by: MattF on May 29, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

yeah it's working jake. can you say 'justice sotomayor'?

Posted by: mudwall jackson on May 29, 2009 at 12:51 PM | PERMALINK

That's a pretty loose definition of "activist". Tancredo's a former congressman, Gingrich a former speaker, Rove was major figure in the last Republican White House.

I think Americans generally recognize that true activists, on both sides, are often in opposition to their nominal party and say things the mainstream doesn't agree with. But the opposite is happening here: mainstream, leading Republicans are leading the charge.

Posted by: WoofWoof on May 29, 2009 at 12:52 PM | PERMALINK

Hey Jake--Lanny Davis doesn't work for the White House anymore, and certainly doesn't speak for Obama.
Try again, loser.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 29, 2009 at 1:01 PM | PERMALINK

Try again, loser.

Sorry for not putting "Clinton" in front of "White House" in my opening sentence. I guess that does make me a loser. You got me there.

I think that if I were a wise Latina, with all the richness of experience that comes with it, I wouldn't have made such an error.

Posted by: Jake on May 29, 2009 at 1:14 PM | PERMALINK

Ha! Just give it a day or two. They'll both be at the altar of the Bobbeling Bubba Limbaugh apologizing for their candor. nauseating....

Posted by: stevio on May 29, 2009 at 1:17 PM | PERMALINK

You would probably hope you wouldn't, Jake, but you still might. After all, even wise Latinas are still human.

Posted by: sean on May 29, 2009 at 1:19 PM | PERMALINK

There's no upside to the attacks.

I disagree. The base is fulminating for action, and these guys are providing it. The worst-case scenario for the Republicans is for the wingnuts to go back to their churches and survival camps and tune out of politics completely -- as they did before Reagan. That beast is the only part of the party with numbers, and the party leadership simply can't afford for it to take its ball and go home.

That said, they are unhinged, and the elected leadership has to do something to appear reasonable. So they hem and haw and say oh-my-how-distressing in public. But they know what's going on.

They're trying to have their cake and eat it too.

Posted by: bleh on May 29, 2009 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for not putting "Clinton" in front of "White House" in my opening sentence.

And using the present tense for an administration that's been gone for over eight years.

But I guess that's how they do it over at Red State.


.

Posted by: spork_incident on May 29, 2009 at 1:30 PM | PERMALINK

Oh republicans...how far you have fallen. It is hard to even remember how you managed to get elected to screw us up this bad. It is so much fun watching you flip the fuck out over everything.

Posted by: Patrick on May 29, 2009 at 1:37 PM | PERMALINK

Is it just me, or is it a little funny to hear Michael Steele wax in his uniquely poetic way about who has or hasn't received undue consideration simply because of their race?

Posted by: doubtful on May 29, 2009 at 1:43 PM | PERMALINK

There was a elderly politician named Newt
Who thought calling people racist was rather cute
Yet he forgot he was an adulterer
Who should pray for forgiveness upon an altar
And would gain more by niceness or remaining mute.

Posted by: Kurt on May 29, 2009 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

"There is no upside to the attacks." - CB

Well, yeah, there is. But only for the Democratic Party and by extension the entire planet.

Watching the Republicans commit their own special brand of autoerotic asphyxiation is so entertaining, isn't it?

Posted by: Curmudgeon on May 29, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

I think I need to schedule a CAT scan. It looked like Steele made an intelligent and coherent appeal to reason rather than blindly spewing vitriol and hatred.

Posted by: Diogenes on May 29, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

"There's probably a realization -- if there's not, there should be -- that most Americans are unlikely to make a distinction between Republican activists and Republican elected officials".

"Most Americans" would be fools to think otherwise. Or do you think Cornyn was speaking from his heart?

Posted by: JL on May 29, 2009 at 1:59 PM | PERMALINK

Vicious attacks against Sonia Sotomayor make it perfectly clear why the GOP remains in exile, growing smaller day by the day. Until and unless elected Republicans grow the smarts and the stones to stand up to Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Pat Buchanan, Tom Tancredo, and others, including the Faux News bloviators, they will remain the small party of racist, mesogynist, old white men.
They've known for months that an Obama Supreme Court appointment was forthcoming. Were they prepared with a high road strategy? No. Instead of being out front, preparing key Senators and Congressmen to make reasonable statements about scrutinizing Sotomayor's record, they chose to produce stupid, ugly pre-emptive ads and set the media hound crackpots loose with racist, sexist remarks.

Republicans still just don't get it. They are living in their own small-minded, narrow white man's world while the rest of the country passes them by. They've become predictably noisier, nastier, more annoying, and totally self-destructive. In the minds of most Americans, Republicans have handed off leadership to the unelected hatemongers. As a party, they've become powerless and irrelevent.

Posted by: Carol A on May 29, 2009 at 2:00 PM | PERMALINK

Wow, whoever this Jake guy is sure looked stupid in a hurry. He wrote "Whitehouse" when he meant "the Clinton Whitehouse," seems to imagine that Davis is a spokesman for this shadow Clinton Whitehouse, and best of all, fails to remember that Lanny Davis savagely attacked Obama last year and insisted that Obama would lose the election.

But hey, who needs details when they can find another pretense to imagine Obama is in trouble? I'm sure Davis is as right in his prediction of Obama's woes as he was when he predicted Obama's "McGovernesque" defeat in the General Election.

Posted by: Doctor Biobrain on May 29, 2009 at 2:04 PM | PERMALINK

It's important to remember that Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have no interest at all in having the Republican party return to power. In fact, it's very much in their interest that the Democrats retain power. When the GOP ran things, their important figures were the President and the leaders of the House and Senate. You know, actual leaders with actual responsibilities. Rush Limbaugh was just a droning noise machine, and you could turn on your television without having to see the smirking countenance of Newt Gingrich, a pathetic, failed relic of bygone Republican defeats. If the GOP ever regains power again, it will be bye bye Newt.

Posted by: Paul Gottlieb on May 29, 2009 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

That's the problem when you allow unelected officials who have nothing to lose to become the mouthpieces of your party.

Of course, it's not like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are a whole lot better...

Posted by: mfw13 on May 29, 2009 at 2:27 PM | PERMALINK

carol a wrote "The GOP has known for months that an Obama Supreme Court appointment was forthcoming."

quite right...and they didn't do their homework...by comparison, the research on the sotomayor articles from scotusblog.com that hilzoy linked to a day or to ago was started last fall....

this is the judge-vetting version of the budget without numbers....

Posted by: dj spellchecka on May 29, 2009 at 2:47 PM | PERMALINK

Sorry for not putting "Clinton" in front of "White House" in my opening sentence. I guess that does make me a loser. You got me there.

Yep, because it completely undermines your attempt to argue that Obama is making apologies for her, as opposed to being criticism from a former bitter Clinton official who hates Obama.

I think that if I were a wise Latina, with all the richness of experience that comes with it, I wouldn't have made such an error.

Even a dropout from an unaccredited law school wouldn't try to make such a lame argument. Even he would know that he'd get his ass handed to him, as you have by just about all the other posters here.

Posted by: Allan Snyder on May 29, 2009 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

I can't wait to see what the GOP does if Obama has the chance to replace Kennedy. That'll be real entertainment.

Posted by: LL on May 29, 2009 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

'GOP officials, I suspect, know this is hurting their party. There's no upside to the attacks."

Then how do you account for this story from today's Politico:

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs sought to tamp down criticism over controversial comments Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor made in 2001, regarding whether a Latino judge might render “better” rulings than a white judge, saying the judge would choose different words if she could give her speech all over again.

“I think she’d say that her word choice in 2001 was poor,” Gibbs told reporters. “She was simply making the point that personal experiences are relevant to the process of judging, that your personal experiences have a tendency to make you more aware of certain facts in certain cases, that your experiences impact your understanding … and that, on a court that’s collegial, that it can help others that are trying to wrestle with the facts of those cases.”

Unfortunately for Gibbs, it is clear that Sotomayor did not exericse "poor word choice" because she goes on to state that logic and reasoning are different for different ethnic groups and women. In the same speech after her poor choice of word, Judge Sotomayor states:

"And I wonder whether by ignoring our differences as women or men of color we do a disservice both to the law and society. Whatever the reasons why we may have different perspectives, either as some theorists suggest because of our cultural experiences or as others postulate because we have basic differences in logic and reasoning, are in many respects a small part of a larger practical question we as women and minority judges in society in general must address."

So if a white man, like Larry Summers, had said that the logic and reasoning abilities of woman and people of color were "different" than white males, he would be a racist and/or sexist? Right?

But Judge Sotomayor is not a racist for saying the same exact thing. What a confusing and illogical world you liberals occupy. lol

Posted by: Chicounsel on May 29, 2009 at 5:25 PM | PERMALINK

One thing this conversation within the Repub party shows is they have absolutely no principles on which to stand. Their arguments against her are stupid and mean and hurt their party.

If they had any principles there wouldn't be much of any discussion. They would simply take their stand and stick with it.

But no, they attack with mud, lies and crap and then say "Oh, maybe this isn't good for us." Liars and hypocrites!

Posted by: MarkH on May 29, 2009 at 9:18 PM | PERMALINK

.
The Repukelickin's are obviously trying to have it both ways, as usual: Stir up their sicko base for contributions, and then pander shamelessly and ineffectually to whatever Latino voters they could ever imagine conning.

Make up your minds, 'Pukes: Love 'em or hate 'em? Your constant barrage of anti-Latino slurs is having an effect: Just take a look at the military vote, which is disproportionately black & Latino, especially in combat arms. It's some of our best, most loyal & longest-serving troops you're dissing and pissing off with all the racist bullsh*t aimed at your dwindling redneck base.

Natural selection alive & well in politics. The Repuke's will be gone entirely by 2020. Good riddance.
.

Posted by: cosanostradamus on May 30, 2009 at 5:08 AM | PERMALINK




 

 

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